New Dollar Coins

The U.S. Treasury is giving dollar coins yet another try.

Two recent efforts to promote wide usage of a dollar coin proved unsuccessful. But maybe Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea should not take public rejection personally. It’s not easy overcoming people’s indifference to dollar coins, even those honoring such historic figures. An AP-Ipsos poll found that three-fourths of people surveyed oppose replacing the dollar bill, featuring George Washington, with a dollar coin. People are split evenly on the idea of having both a dollar bill and a dollar coin.

A new version of the coin, paying tribute to American presidents, goes into general circulation Thursday. Even though doing away with the bill could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year in printing costs, there is no plan to scrap the bill in favor of the more durable coin.


A quarter-century ago, the dollar coin showed feminist Susan B. Anthony on the front; then one in 2000 featuring Sacagawea, the Shoshone Indian who helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition.

New Dollar Coin In this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Mint, a dollar coin is seen. An AP-Ipsos poll found that three-fourths of the people in the United States oppose replacing the dollar bill with a one dollar coin, and people are evenly split as to whether there should be both dollar bills and dollar coins. (AP Photo/U.S. Mint) The latest dollar coin will bear Washington’s image, followed later this year by those of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. A different president will appear on the golden dollar coins every three months.

People have strong feelings about their money, even the penny, which occasionally is threatened with elimination. When people were asked whether the penny should be eliminated, 71 percent said no, according to the poll of 1,000 adults conducted Nov. 28-30 that had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

People don’t like change. I’m sure, however, if they were asked whether we should continue to waste hundreds of millions of dollars a year on small bills, they’d respond differently.

The way to make a dollar coin work is to stop printing the dollar bill and make the coins the size of the old silver dollars, so that they don’t seem so insubstantial. The move away from images of relatively unknown historical figures put on the coin to make a political statement is also helpful.

And I can hardly wait until May 2016 when the Richard Nixon dollar goes into circulation.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Libertyblog says:

    vending machines, too). At just over eight grams, a dollar coin weighs about a third of what four quarters weigh. So they’re only slightly bigger than quarters and weigh slightly more. Which means they’re too small and too light. (I’m not alone. James Joyner

  2. […] Of course, there is only one way to ensure that the Dollar Coin would be accepted by the general public, and that would be to stop printing the Dollar Bill and, as James Joyner notes, make the coin large enough that it’s easily distinguishible from a quarter. From an economic point of view, it makes perfect sense. In the long run, it’s cheaper to mint a coin that will last twenty years or more than it is to print a paper bill that will last, at most, a few years. […]

  3. DC Loser says:

    I’m all for dollar coins. They make using vending machines so much easier. The Brits and Canadians have been only using single demoniation coins (with no paper) for years with no ill effects.

  4. bains says:

    The way to make a dollar coin work is to… make the coins the size of the old silver dollars… The move away from images of relatively unknown historical figures put on the coin to make a political statement is also helpful.

    Bingo. The primary reason both Susan B. and Sacagawea failed was that Treasury was more concerned with making political statements than improvements in legal tender.

  5. ken says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

  6. NoZe says:

    >People don’t like change.

    No pun intended, right? 😉

  7. James Joyner says:

    No pun intended, right? 😉


  8. cirby says:

    Get some good dollar coins, then do away with pennies. There’s a couple of hundred million bucks in lost time right there.

  9. JKB says:

    I personally like the dollar coin but they have to force its use. No one will bother with the coin if they are afraid they’ll get hassled when they try to use it. Or arrested as Best Buy did to a customer the 2-dollar bill. The resistance to the dollar coin and the 2-dollar bill has always been that the cash drawers don’t accommodate them. Merchants don’t like them as they require additional handling.

    The Commerce Department had this problem in 1990s when Secretary Brown mandated the use of metric paper sizes. To implement it all the file cabinets and many printer paper trays needed replacement since metric was just a bit larger than US std paper sizes. The money to replace perfectly functional cabinets never materialized and the metric mandate quietly went away.

  10. Daniel Haak says:

    If we get rid of the dollar bill, merchants can put the $2 bill in its place. Get rid of the penny & the dollar coin goes in its place in the cash drawer. No muss, no fuss. But we Americans are too resistant to change of any kind. Basically we’re just too lazy or stupid to make the effort. I use dollar coins and $2 bills all the time just to irritate cashiers. I plan on getting as many rolls of the new coins as I can from my local bank (I refuse to pay extra just to get them from the mint), and spend them everytime I would normally use cash.

  11. floyd says:

    standardize it with universally acceptable images [like maybe standing liberty on the obverse and a spread eagle on the reverse]and the coin dollar will be accepted. Also don’t “marginalize” the mottos

  12. Rodney Dill says:

    I never thought the Sacagawea coin was that bad looking, the Susan B. Anthony was kinda hideous. I don’t think the coins appearance is the main obstacle to adopting dollar coins, though, mostly just stubborn habit and convenience.

    The coins are more expensive to mint, but last so long they are cheaper in the long run. You still see quarters in circulation from the sixties and seventies, where as dollar bills are meant to only circulate for about 18 months.

  13. just me says:

    I think the only way they will get a dollar coin to be used regularly is to do away with the dollar bill.

    As long as the bill is there to use, nobody is going to fill their pockets or change purses up with dollar coins.

  14. jeff b says:

    I love the dollar coins and I go to the Post Office just so I can get them (my bank doesn’t keep them). When I travel in Europe I always find the 1 and 2 Euro coins quite convenient. Perhaps the Treasury will consider issuing a $2 coin?

  15. Brian J. says:

    I know a number of people who have accummulated the recent dollar coins; when they receive them as change, they segregate them and put them in their special coin jars at home.

    Changing the design yearly will play right into their hoarding instinct.

  16. Kent G. Budge says:

    We still can’t get any significant segment of the public to go metric. This does not bode well for the dollar coin. Which is a shame given how [i]sensible[/i] the idea is.

  17. brainy435 says:

    “I’m sure, however, if they were asked whether we should continue to waste hundreds of millions of dollars a year on small bills, they’d respond differently.”

    I don’t really think we can expect to recoup this money by switching to a dollar coin. I would think that replacing a process using paper and ink with one using metal and stamping machinery would cost MORE money, not less.

    On a lighter note, I imagine that these coins would make life much harder for those who enjoy frequenting strip clubs…not to mention the dancers! :o)

  18. James Joyner says:

    I would think that replacing a process using paper and ink with one using metal and stamping machinery would cost MORE money, not less

    For initial production, yes. But as the article notes, coins stay in circulation for years if not decades whereas bills get destroyed after a few months of use.

  19. Erica says:

    I agree with Brian J’s comment – people will hoard/collect the coins when new designs come out, as happened with the quarters. The other issues will be updating vending machines to accept them – the Post Office and the transit system machines are ready.

    Though, somehow I got back a 5 Peso Filipino coin instead from the Post Office machine after hours one night and they won’t exchange it for a dollar coin for me, saying it was impossible that it could be in the machine.

  20. […] Every time the dollar coin is mentioned you get people saying it will only be a success if the Mint stops printing dollar bills at the same time. Well first of all I don’t think it’s fair to call the switch over a success when you’re just forcing people to switch. While it’s nice for the government to save money, coins are just a big pain to use. I never carry any. They sit in my car or my desk drawer at work until I remember to bring them home and leave them in my coin jar. I don’t want to start doing that with whole dollars. Someone at the MSNBC message boards had a great idea to get around the bulky inconvenience of dollar coins. I wish I could link directly to their post. If the coins are forced on us then we should all just switch to using the $2 bill. I think the next time I have to use a teller at the bank I’ll request some. […]